The rain stayed away, but that didn't save the 2010 ARIA Awards from turning into a damp squib.

The likes of Angus and Julia Stone, Dan Sultan and Megan Washington were the big winners, but the flagship Australian industry awards gala endured a ratings knockdown on a blustery, unseasonably cool night.

Just 634,000 viewers tuned in to Network Ten's Sunday night (Nov. 7) live telecast, down from the 708,000 audience rival network Channel Nine pulled for the 2009 event, and considerably less than the 1.09 million viewers for Network Ten's 2008 broadcast.

Put in context, the viewing figures mean more than half of the 1.44 million audience that watched the free-to-air Ten's preceding show "Junior MasterChef" had either turned off or switched over by the time the ARIAs ceremony went out.

Organizers of the ARIAs had trimmed down and revamped the format this year in the hope of connecting with a younger, wider audience and sending TV ratings north. It wasn't a hit. For the first time, the ceremony was hosted on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House and members of the public were allowed to decide the winners in four categories, a decision which turned out to be a controversial one within the ranks of Australia's labels business.

Unfortunately for the participants, the 24th annual ceremony will largely be remembered for the wrong reasons as a succession of presenters fluffed their lines or rambled on almost incoherently. The new open-air format created a disconnect between the industry guests and the action on-stage, while many viewers complained that the broadcast was disjointed. Some media outlets were giving the show a kicking today, branding it a train-wreck.

The gala's strongest suit was its performances, in particular Megan Washington's colorful Broadway-style rendition of "Sunday Best," lifted from her top-three debut "I Believe You, Liar" (Mercury/UMA). Washington backed up her performance with trophies for best female artist and breakthrough artist.

Another rising star, the indigenous soul-rock singer Dan Sultan took out the best male artist gong. Sultan, who fronted a performance with INXS on the night, was thrilled with his prestigious award. "This is awesome," he later told Billboard.biz. "No indigenous artist has ever won this award. Bands like Scrap Metal and Yothu Yindi have worked so hard over the years to break down the barriers. Tonight, we broke those barriers just a bit more."

Sultan's ARIA win caps a big year for the artist, whose sophomore album "Get Out While You Can" (MGM) won him two gongs at the Oct. 1 Independent Music Awards in Melbourne.

The prestigious ARIA album of the year trophy this year went to Angus & Julia Stone for their set "Down The Way" (Original Matters/EMI). The sibling duo took home a second when they won for single of their year with "Big Jet Plane," which they played live. The Temper Trap won best group and their U.K. top 10 hit "Sweet Disposition" (Liberation Music) took out most popular Australian single, one of the four new populist-voting categories.

Powderfinger opened proceedings with a rendition of "Burn Your Name," their last ever TV performance before they disband later this month. The veteran rock band also won a pair of fan-voted categories, grabbing the most popular Australian album category for "Golden Rule" (UMA) and winning for most popular Australian artist.

Fans voted Mumford and Sons the most popular international artist, while Sia's "We Are Born" (Monkey Puzzle/Inertia) took out best independent release.

In a break from tradition, various so-called genre categories were awarded during a string of concerts held in the lead up to Sunday night's showpiece event. The McClymonts, Birds of Tokyo and Crowded House were among the winners.

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